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This study examines the quality of school management in different countries and school types and its relationship to student outcomes. The authors constructed an index by averaging across twenty management practices in four areas (operations, monitoring, target setting, and personnel), then surveyed 1,800 principals in eight countries on their adherence to these practices. A broad range of schools ended up in the data set, including traditional government schools, private schools, and autonomous government schools (i.e., schools that receive public funding but have some degree of operational independence, such as charter schools). The authors find that the quality of school management varies significantly across countries, with the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, and the United States scoring higher than the other four. High scores on the index are positively correlated with better student outcomes. Yet large disparities in management quality exist within countries across different types of schools, with autonomous public schools faring better than both traditional government schools and private schools. The difference, the authors say, is not the autonomy, but how it’s used. “Having strong accountability of principals to an external governing body and exercising strong leadership through a coherent long-term strategy for the school appear to be two key features that account for a large fraction of the superior management performance of such schools,” they note. From a policy perspective, school management tends to get less attention than teacher quality, class size. or school choice. That may be a mistake. 

SOURCE: Nicholas Bloom, Renata Lemos, Raffaella Sadun, and John...

Research shows that the gap in reading skills between poor and non-poor kids manifests itself earlier than kindergarten and often widens during summer. With that in mind, this new study examines whether a summer reading program for elementary students affects reading comprehension. During the spring and summer of 2013, second and third graders in fifty-nine North Carolina public schools were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. The former were given six reading comprehension lessons aimed at fostering their engagement with books at home during the summer and were subsequently mailed a book each week—ten total—over the summer months. (Books were matched to students based on their initial reading level and their interests.) Control kids received six math lessons during the same time period and weren’t mailed books. Both groups were asked to send in response cards on which they reported the number of books read and answered a handful of basic questions about them. There are three key findings: One, the treatment group read an additional 1.1 books more over the summer than the control group. Two, there were significant impacts on reading comprehension test scores in the fall for third-grade girls. Although third-grade boys and second graders of both genders showed no gains, the program caused an increase of 7.3 percent of a standard deviation in reading comprehension compared to the control group. That is equivalent to the gain that a typical third-grader makes in 1.4 months. Third, regarding differences within the treatment group, reading more books and...

The logic of using school choice to drive educational quality assumes that choosers will make rational decisions based on complete information and that market forces will do the rest. Isn’t it pretty to think so? Yet “people are flawed as information consumers and decision makers,” notes Tulane University’s Jon Valant in this thought-provoking report from AEI. Most of us, he notes, are “boundedly rational.” Our decisions make sense, but they’re a function of the time we have to spend evaluating our options, and our own cognitive capacity to process the information at hand. Thus, while many proponents see school choice as an intrinsic good arising from values such as freedom and parental control, there are limits to just how much change in the realms of education quality and achievement is actually brought about by choice per se. Valent’s report shows why: Families consider fewer schools than are available (and sometimes only one), typically turning to friends, neighbors and family members “whose insights often come without the school chooser having to search for them.” Providing more school options—and more information about those options—may make little sense when parents remain unaware of the full range of available choices or lack the time and resources to evaluate them. Simply making the data user-friendly isn’t necessarily the answer, either. The much-pilloried school report cards that reduce a school to a simple (or simplistic) A–F grade have measurable influences on the decisions parents make. Yet Valant also shows that narrative comments on those...

EDUCATION SNAPSHOT: FLORIDA
Some schools in Florida are offering single-sex classes in the hopes of improving academic performance and cutting down on disciplinary issues. Supporters of the tactic cite unique learning differences between boys and girls, claiming that, among other gender-specific distinctions, boys often require more physical activity during lessons. Meanwhile, groups like the A.C.L.U. say that separating students by gender perpetuates stereotypes and shows no evidence of academic benefits.

CATCHING UP WITH NCLB
Congress is hoping to update No Child Left Behind by early 2015, though reaching bipartisan consensus will be difficult. The law, which last came up for renewal in 2007, requires schools to revamp teacher evaluations and monitor and report the performance of at-risk students. Much criticism has been directed against the law’s focus on increased standardized testing, which will likely garner considerable debate during the months ahead.

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING
MOOCs, or massive open online courses, allow students of all ages to broaden their educational horizons by increasing access to expert instruction. However, apprehension concerning the use of student data is building as the number of MOOC enrollees grows. Some worry that students are unwittingly forfeiting vast amounts of private information, from birthdays to IP addresses to academic performance, while attempting to supplement their classroom learning.

ART CLASS AS SCHOOLCRAFT
As part of Education Week’s “Inspired Learning” series, Oklahoma educator Jean Hendrickson extols the value of arts education in elementary school. Hendrickson credits enhanced arts...

  1. On Monday, the Enquirer printed an open letter to the Catholic Archbishop of Cincinnati from a local Catholic-school grad, imploring him to drop Common Core from all the schools under his purview. The lad says Common Core will “remove parents from the education process, reduce teachers to paper-pushers, and concern learning with the vocational rather than the metaphysical.” As if you couldn’t tell from the letter and his avatar photo (or from his aggressive attempts to control the online discussion board in the Enquirer website), this young fellow is a political science major - at none other than Hillsdale College. Go figure. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. I wasn’t going to clip the above piece, but since the Superintendent of the Catholic Diocese of Cincinnati decided to pen a response, I thought they would make an excellent counterpoint to one another. He says that the Diocese is “adapting, not adopting” Common Core. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  3. Speaking of Common Core, the very first administration of PARCC’s performance-based assessments in English and Algebra 1 is occurring in Ohio this week. That is, tests that actually count. The folks in Bay Village schools seem confident that their teachers – and their students – have it in the bag thanks to helpful prep, sample questions, and guidance from PARCC. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. As predicted earlier, the effort to eliminate mandatory pay schedules for teachers from Ohio law died when the language was removed from HB 343 in the House Education Committee. Committee Chair Stebelton said the language was a drag on other more important provisions
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  1. Reporters affiliated with the Plain Dealer have fanned out across Northeast Ohio to interview 25 district superintendents in some depth. The individual pieces are available via the PD’s website, but here is the overview that opened the interview series, focusing on money. How much the supes make, what kind of benefits they get, what their travel allowances are like, how many are double-dipping, and how many plan to join the double-dippers. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Two clues lead me to believe that the Beacon Journal has tired of writing about charter schools for the moment. First was last week’s “miraculous” story about a seemingly-unbashable charter about whom the reporter had nothing bad to say. A miracle indeed. Second is yesterday’s story digging into a revamped, comprehensive program within Akron City Schools for students removed from their home schools due to discipline problems. The Phoenix Program, housed in a former school building, offers smaller class sizes, incentives for positive behavior and other interventions with the goal of returning troubled pupils to their home schools. It is run by the local YMCA. However, the building is now also houses to other services that may be of use to Phoenix students and their families as well: a branch office of the juvenile court system, the Y, a number of mental health providers, probation officers, and the district’s recently-revived truancy program. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. We are familiar with the early-college high school concept here in Ohio. Canton is exploring the
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  1. Not much education reporting over the Thanksgiving break. The folks at Gongwer took a look ahead at the remainder of the lame-duck legislative session. Specifically, this piece is about two pending education bills likely to see some action. The removal of the mandatory teacher pay schedule, they predict, will not happen this go round (via House action); and the bill to reduce testing time for students to just four hours per subject per student also may not happen (via Senate inaction). We shall see if the prognostications prove correct. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. In 2005, the Columbus City Schools’ board disbanded its budget committee and switched to what is called “policy governance”, which leaves spending decisions largely up to the district administration. In the ensuing ten years, so the Dispatch’s analysis goes, per-pupil spending on regular instruction was down more than 5 percent, and spending on what the reporter calls “bureaucracy” skyrocketed. Not sure that’s entirely fair, given the variety of spending categories that appear on those two lists, but hopes are high that the imminent resurrection of the board’s budget committee will allow the district’s “laserlike focus” on student achievement is properly backed up by spending priorities. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. And, in case you missed it: Fordham’s sponsorship team released its annual report for the 2013-14 school year and you can (and should) check it out by clicking here. (Fordham Ohio)
  1. We’ll start today with an item that is only tangentially related to education. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman announced yesterday that he would not seek a fifth term as mayor. He’s already the longest-serving mayor in Columbus’ history and has a lot to show for his dedication to the city. But his leadership in efforts to help improve education in Columbus – from a citywide afterschool program to the Columbus Education Commission to the visionary (but ultimately doomed) levy that tried to bring reform to the city schools – will be sorely missed. No one on the short list of contenders for the office so far has much cred when it comes to education. Bon chance, Mr. Mayor, wherever you’re off to. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. And on to real education news with a bang. There is a possible double-strike whammy looming in Parma at the moment. Both the teachers union and the support-staff union have been negotiating with the district on new contracts (the former for over 18 months!), but both unions have recently rejected offers rather soundly. Words like “last” and “best” are being bandied about, but let’s hope that cooler heads prevail and both strikes can be averted. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Staying in Cleveland for a moment, PD editors opine (again) today on the testing-time limit bill which passed the Ohio House last week. They urge caution, deliberation, and outright blockage of the current bill by either the Senate or the governor.  (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
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The Ferguson edition

Conor Williams guest stars.

The Ferguson grand jury decision, pre-K for disadvantaged kids, school discipline, and summer reading programs.

Amber's Research Minute

Jonathan Guryan, James S. Kim, David M. Quinn, "Does Reading During the Summer Build Reading Skills? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in 463 Classrooms," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 20689 (November 2014).

  • Conventional wisdom suggests would-be GOP presidential candidates are supposed to disavow the Common Core (cf. Bobby Jindal), but Jeb Bush and Governor John Kasich didn’t get the memo. During a speech last Thursday in Washington, the former Florida governor emphasized the importance of raising academic standards in America’s schools, which starts with the Common Core. And if states opt to forgo adoption, any replacement ought to be even more rigorous, Bush said. Likewise, Governor Kasich, speaking last week at the Republican Governors Association, continued his strong and unwavering support of the CCSS, reiterating that governors wrote the standards and not the federal government. In other words, the Common Core is not a litmus test for Republicans.
  • Due to tougher teacher exams, New York State saw a 20 percent drop in the number of new certifications for the 2013–14 school year, reports the New York Times. The Empire State introduced the new assessments last year in an attempt to boost the caliber of new teachers. Those who don’t pass can’t teach in public schools. Better still, ed schools with high failure rates risk losing accreditation. Raising standards for teachers was a critical part of the "Massachusetts miracle," and we're glad to see others following suit.
  • The Atlantic published a big article written by Sarah Carr this month about a No Excuses high school in New Orleans that might be overdoing it on the discipline front. In a city with a plethora of school choices, many
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